It felt like Indian summer in the northwest Bronx on October 28th, and residents were enjoying its harvest. Each visitor to the Norwood Food Co-op distribution event outside the Lutheran Church of the Epiphany on East 206th Street picked through farm-fresh eggs, yogurts, green tomatoes and two varieties of apples, stuffing them into canvas shoulder bags.
For a moment it was possible to forget that the 205th Street D train station was a half block away.
That’s the appeal of this Community Sponsored Agriculture food co-op, which connects nearly 60 Bronx families with Norwich Meadows Farm upstate. From June through early November, fruits and vegetables are picked at the farm and loaded onto a truck that arrives in the Bronx by 2:30 p.m. Between 4 and 7 p.m., the produce is available to co-op members in Norwood. The harvest changes week to week, depending on the weather and the season.
The co-op’s most common share option feeds a family of two to four people. The $315 seasonal fee comes to about $15 a week. Last week, that money went a long way; each family received apples, potatoes, greens, radishes, green tomatoes, turnips, Brussels sprouts, leeks, milk, yogurt, butter, honey, granola, and eggs. The co-op estimates that families save an average of 15 to 20 percent each season over what they’d pay for comparable organic produce at a green market.
“What’s good this week? Brussels sprouts!” said volunteer Fred Dowd, 77, who was manning last week’s distribution event. Co-op members must volunteer four hours each season, and all new members must attend an orientation and training session.
Dowd, who was joined at the event by his wife Cathy, has lived in Norwood for 24 years and been affiliated with the co-op for three. He said now that he’s retired, he enjoys being out meeting people, and appreciates that the co-op makes it easier to eat healthfully.
He recommended bags of Macoun and Empire apples to co-op member Christina Mozzicato, 30. “They look great!” exclaimed Mozzicato, as she added the apples to her bag.
Mozzicato, who lives in Woodlawn, sung the praises of the co-op. “It’s a great way when you’re living in the Bronx to get fresh food,” she said. “There aren’t that many options in the Bronx.”
Indeed, Norwood especially is lacking in such options as it awaits the reopening of its only supermarket, FoodTown, which was destroyed in a December 2009 fire. It’s slated to reopen by the end of this year.
The co-op, which is affiliated with nonprofit Just Food, also aims to support the greater good. It accepts EBT/Food Stamps, and any leftovers at the end of distribution events are driven over to the soup kitchen at Part of the Solution in Fordham.
The summer/fall season is coming to an end next week, and members are looking forward to monthly winter deliveries from December through May that may include items like fresh jam, maple syrup, and organic chicken in addition to the produce and dairy.
While new members generally join the co-op in the summer instead of winter, Dowd encouraged them to plan ahead. “A lot of people will stop and want to buy something,” he said of passersby. “I tell them, ‘you can sign up for next year!’”
To learn more about the Norwood Food Co-op, hungry Bronxites can visit http://www.norwoodfoodcoop.org or call 718-514-3305.